autumn leaves

The foliage around the city is BONKERS right now. The weather has been bright & clear for the past few days so we’ve been able to get out and really enjoy it before everything turns into wet brown yuck.

Nicky, lately

Usually by dinnertime most days I’m absolutely done. I’ll usually finish eating and then leave Taylor in charge of the kids and go lie down in bed. Recently Nicky will come and join me, he climbs up into the bed, tucks himself into the covers and snuggles up. Sometimes he’ll hide from Taylor by pulling the duvet right over his head, but most days he treats us to his “snoring” while he “sleeps.”

should you put candy eyes on chocolate brownies?

On Monday afternoon I asked Sym if she wanted to help me make brownies. She agreed but asked “can we make them spoopy?” I was like… no, I can’t think of a way to do that so instead we just sprinkled the top with come choclate jimmies (her fave type of sprinkle). When I was putting the jimmies away though, I found a pack of candy eyes and inspiration struck. THIS was how to make brownies spoopy!

I was a little worried they would melt in the oven though, and sadly this was the case. HOWEVER after I took them out I just put new eyes over the badly melted eyes and in the end our brownies looked spoopy as heck (I recommend doing this because the new eyes will stick to the melted eyes, whereas if you just try to put eyes on cooked brownies with a nice crisp top they won’t stick at all, also DON’T talk to me about putting icing on brownies BROWNIES ARE NOT A CAKE).

Brownie recipe from The Stay at Home Chef.

thankschicken

It’s no secret I’m not a particular fan of turkey, or of cooking a whole bird. I’ve only tried it once (with a chicken) and it was an unmitigated disaster. Maybe it’ll be something I tackle later this fall but not yet. Because of this I skip the “traditional” meals on Christmas and Thanksgiving: for Christmas we do roast beef with Yorkshire puddings, but for Thanksgiving I wanted to do something different. A while back I had this idea of doing fried chicken and waffles, and I’ve made it a few times now with varying levels of success. This is the first year I’ve come close to really knocking it out of the park.

For the chicken I used this recipe from Southern Kitchen. I’m not yet at the point in my cooking where I have it in me to take a whole chicken and cut it into 8-10 pieces, and chicken with bones is a bit of a hassle for the little kids to eat so instead I used boneless thighs. I also skimped a little on the hot sauce because 2/3 of my kids don’t like spicy things (guess which one loves the heat IT’S THE ONE WHOSE DIAPER I HAVE TO CHANGE). But other than that I tried to follow the recipe & instructions as closely as possible. I even bought a splatter screen (god bless it, honestly) and a frying thermometer (which I had to go to FOUR stores to find). I used our workhorsiest cast iron skillet and peanut oil (which was great btw, afterwards there was no old fry oil smell in the house AT ALL) and did the chicken in three batches while Taylor manned the waffle iron.

We’ve used a few different waffle recipes over the years but I’ve never been 100% sold on any of them. I did a bunch of research to find a new one which is how I stumbled on the Waffles of Insane Greatness. And like. These waffles. ARE SO GREAT! Crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, easy to make batter (no whipping up a bunch of egg whites separately) and best of all they don’t stick to the gd waffle iron! This is def going to be our go-to waffle recipe from now on.

We kept the chicken & waffles on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper & wire racks in the oven on a low temp so it’d all stay warm until everything was ready to serve; the wire racks kept them from getting soggy. I was too anxious about my skillet full of hot oil to really get into doing a bunch of sides so we just had one: honey glazed carrots. Maybe next year I’ll do more, but all in all, this meal was a hot.

thank god it’s not too good to be true

Yesterday morning Taylor and I had a little extra time and were able to sit at the table together and have coffee. Usually we are so rushed in the morning that I don’t have coffee until after the school drop off, and I assume he has his at work, on his way to work, maybe both. But yesterday there was a lull where the kids were fed and dressed and happily watching a cartoon (they’ve been watching Hilda this week), Gwen’s lunch was made, and the daycare kids hadn’t yet arrived. A small moment of peace. I watched Taylor from across the table and I thought to myself HOW STRANGE it is how much I still love him. We’ve been together for almost twelve years now, married for nine and a half of them. You would think I would get sick of him but I don’t, I’m always happy to sit with him, to hold him and have him hold me, to look at his handsome face.

on cars and mud, or, Nicky is two!

For the most part, I really love having a car-free life. We live downtown and both work within walking distance from home (some of more than others, haha #oneroomcommute) so Taylor and I don’t ever really miss his old car. Well I assume he doesn’t, I myself have never owned or driven or even learned how to drive a car so it’s not something I think about much. But we don’t have to pay for a car or parking or gas or maintenance, which is obviously a big bonus. It also makes us more mindful of when we DO use cars; Taylor has memberships with a few different car sharing services, but before we book one we usually do a cost/benefit analysis. For example, we always used to take a zipcar when we went to Ikea, but the money we spent on the car was money we couldn’t spend on other things (like… stuff at Ikea). Last year in the summer I figured out how easy it was to get there by transit (it’s literally one train and one bus) and obviously it takes longer than driving but it’s so much less expensive! Plus any time we can avoid installing carseats YET AGAIN is a good time for us.

Now there are obviously times when a car is the only option, this summer’s day trip to Alice Lake for instance. And using car shares, especially on the weekend and double especially if you need to fit in a whole family including two car seats, means you can lose spontaneity. We usually have to book the car several days in advance, and once you pass the cancellation window come hell or high water or inclement weather you are taking that car trip! This worked in our favour for Alice Lake and we had a beautiful clear sunny day. Nicky’s autumn birthday excursion? Not quite so much.

Originally I was planning on throwing an at-home party for him and inviting his little friends, but then I thought about it and I have multiple toddlers here making a mess all week, do I really want that on the weekend too? NOT SO MUCH. Instead I decided we should go on a family excursion out to a farm for like… autumn activities. I picked Maan Farms in Abbotsford, about an hour’s drive from downtown. We never do this kind of classic fall family activity so I figured this was a perfect idea, but we’d definitely need a car for this one. I checked the weather forecast and it had Nicky’s birthday sunny and clear, so Taylor and I went ahead and made our plans. Then we watched as each day the forecast got worse and worse.

Hope springs eternal though, and rather than cancel his birthday and pay for a car we then wouldn’t be using. we pulled out everyone’s rain gear and packed a bag of towels. His birthday dawned grey and wet and I was a bit worried we’d all have a miserable time but as it turned out, it was kind of perfect? The rain meant the farm wasn’t busy, so we had all the attractions pretty much to ourselves, and while two of my three kids ended up slicked in mud from head to toe, they were also waterproof from head to toe (god bless Mountain Equipment Co-op). I had my camera but it was so wet that we couldn’t really take many pictures so instead of posing, we just had fun. Even Symphony, who can be somewhat of a difficult teen at times, had a blast.

In fact, Symphony was on cloud nine because she got licked by a goat in the petting zoo.

Taylor tried one of these pedal karts and when he sat on it his rainpants pulled down in the back and all the water went straight down his behind.

Nicky was OBSESSED with the pumpkin patch, we had to go in it twice and he wanted to bring home every gourd he saw. It was too muddy for pics though so here he is in the corn maze (also muddy).

This is the ONLY picture of me (other than a selfie with the birthday boy I posted in my instagram stories) from the WHOLE DAY, someone else needs to step up and take some pictures sometimes, maybe a person whose hobby is photography, I’M JUST SAYIN’.

After we got home we had our neighbors down for a some cake & presents. I baked the cake the day before, a 3-layer funfetti cake with cream cheese frosting.

It was a big hit (I think it’s safe to say I’ve been fully redeemed as a baker), as were Nicky’s gifts: a Green Toys car carrier truck, a Little People zoo train, and a plush surf van (finally a toy car he can have at bedtime!).

In the end I’m so glad we just sucked it up, went out and got wet and muddy, and I think everyone else is too! (Which also bodes well for the CHRISTMAS family activities I’m planning…)

reflections on a cake pan

When you are trying not to think about something the only option is to think very, very hard about something else. Like you can’t NOT think of a thing, you have to replace it with another thing. I’m trying to not think about something so every other thing I think about takes on a bizarre, almost reverent significance. For example: I got a new bundt pan this week.

I don’t really make that many bundt cakes (SO MUCH WORK) and I already had a bundt pan but I just… didn’t like it. It wasn’t cute. I bought it at a grocery store a few years back because I had a desperate need one day to bake a bundt cake, something I’d never done before, and since I was working that day I didn’t have time to go all over town looking for the perfect pan. So it’s plain and boring and flat on the base so the cakes that come out of it are flat on the top and LOOK that’s just not what I want in a bundt! Around Christmastime last year I was at my favourite store HomeSense with Symphony and she found a fancy gingerbread village bundt pan and was like “WE SHOULD GET THIS” but it was FIFTY DOLLARS and I’m sorry but I’m not paying $50 for a cake pan at HomeSense.

Since then though, I’ve found my thoughts being consumed by a desire for a new, fancy, cute bundt pan. As we headed into the colder months my mind drifted to them more and more often, and I would browse online trying to find the best price for the fanciest pan. When I ordered new rain boots the other week I almost tossed a sale-priced Christmas-themed pan into my cart as well but at the last minute I changed my mind, the sale price just wasn’t good enough. I still couldn’t stop browsing them though.

On Wednesday I had a pretty rough day of work, and so after the kids were in bed that night I asked Taylor to go for a walk with me, where else but my favourite store HomeSense (fyi I do always call it that, especially when speaking aloud). I just wanted to browse all the things and unwind from my day with no one screaming at me. I wasn’t actually planning on buying anything but as we rounded the corner into the bakeware aisle I thought to myself “I should check if they have any cute bundt pans!” and before I even finished the thought I spotted it: a Nordic Ware Fall Harvest Bundt Pan. What a frilly, fancy lil bitch it was too. A wreath in heavy cast aluminum, decorated all over with leaves and acorns, this was a pan to be proud of! I’d looked at the same and others like it on various websites in the past weeks and it was priced at less than half what I’d seen it at. SOLD.

The next day I was ready to bake. You have to wash a new cake pan before you can use it, and since washing dishes in an inherently mindless activity, as I filled the sink I could feel my thoughts veering towards the thing I don’t want to think about. I needed to focus in on something, and so I focussed in on washing the pan. I used the hottest water and some Mrs Meyers basil-scented dish detergent on a soft sponge, and after washing and rinsing the pan I held it cradled in my arms, still warm, as I gently dried it with a clean white cloth, carefully getting into all the nooks and crannies of the leaves and acorns.

I took the same care buttery and flouring the pan when it came time to add the batter; a variation on a brown sugar bourbon cake recipe I’d picked that morning. I’d wanted something worthy of the pan. Something autumnal but not pumpkin-y, something simple that would let the shape of the cake itself be the star, something fairly easy so I’d have enough time to get the batter mixed and the cake baked during the kids’ nap time. I’d picked up the butter & eggs I’d needed already, but I didn’t have enough brown sugar so I used 2 cups brown and 1 cup white, and instead of plain ol’ regular bourbon I used Kentucky Swamp Water, which is what I call a bottle in which I have mixed together all my least-favourite bourbons, including some maple-flavoured Knob Creek, so MY cake was MAPLE brown sugar bourbon. I also left off the glaze, as the directions cautioned that boiling bourbon might burst into flames, and I wasn’t keen to start a kitchen fire with a house full of toddlers.

The recipe called for a baking time of 70-75 minutes, but it was for a 12-cup pan and mine is 10-cups. I didn’t want to waste the excess batter so I quickly buttered & floured my 4-inch springform pan to make a mini cake as well, and since I was making one slightly-smaller and one much much smaller cake, I set a timer for twenty minutes and started checking from there. The last three things I’ve baked have all been over- or under-baked so I was also looking for a bit of kitchen redemption, and was bound and determined not to fuck up this time. In the end both cakes were ready after 38 minutes, which was weird because I thought the smaller one would bake faster? I’m actually baffled by it. While the cakes were baking the sweet smell of sugar, spices, and maple filled the house. All the kids were sleeping and the house was (mostly) clean so I had a minute to just sit, and as I sat there, smelling the delicious fragrance in peace and quiet I thought to myself: this.

last day

In the spring of 2004 Symphony’s dad decided he wanted a dog. He had a bunch of ideas about getting… a Doberman Pinscher I think? But then the internet led him on a spiral (the way that it does) and he ended up on the site for a small, local rescue. There was a picture of a litter of puppies they had available for adoption: three cute puppies and one goofy looking idiot. When he contacted them he was told all the cute puppies were adopted but if we were interested, the goofy idiot was still available. As it turned out it was just a bad picture, and a flattering cover photo in a community newspaper led to hundreds of calls to the rescue from people interested in the last puppy. Only a few people were selected to meet the dog, and in the end it came down to a family who lived on a farm with acres of room to run, and us.

They picked us. The dog picked us. The dog was Dougal.

Today is Dougal’s last day, and this afternoon we are saying goodbye to the best dog, the handsomest dog, the best singer and gate-jumper and garbage-eater. Dougal loved biting cardboard, running, and people, and he hated other pets getting attention, skateboards, and having his feet touched. He was the best loved. He was our dog. Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye Dougal. Dougal, the dog we found on Google.

comedy of errors

Back in June I started doing yoga. I’d backed the Gathre yoga mats on Kickstarter in like… February so I figured I should actually start doing yoga, right? It was the logical thing to do. So a few times a week in the afternoon when the kids were napping I’d put on a Yoga With Adriene video. This was when I was having a lot of anxiety after Georgie’s attack and doing yoga really helped with that. I wanted to keep it up over the summer but unfortunately with Sym and Gwen off school it just didn’t work out. They would be out in the living room during nap time because little kids were sleeping in their rooms, and the constant commentary and need for attention was just not conducive to yoga.

Thankfully they are back at school now, and my kickstarted mats arrived the first week of school so it was like… serendipity! I figured I could do yoga three afternoons a week (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) and still have time to do all the work and housework and everything else I need to do each day. Usually I’ll do a video that is 30-40 minutes, but yesterday someone’s child (cough*mine*cough) dumped out a ton of milk all over the dining room at lunch. I had a bunch of extra cleaning and mopping to do so had less spare time during nap and chose a quick, 15-minute workout instead.

Now recently I’ve been making a real effort to go to bed at a decent hour instead of staying up late and falling asleep on the couch watching Unsolved Mysteries. As it turns out, if you go to bed earlier it’s easy to wake up earlier. WILD I KNOW. So I figured I could get up 15 minutes earlier in the morning and do this quick, 15 minute flexibility workout every day. Every day! (Every weekday I mean). I was getting up at 7… ish so even though I’m really not a morning person 6:45 wasn’t outside of the realm of possibility for me. I went to bed by 11:30 last night and I was so confident that I’d wake up early enough I didn’t even set an alarm. And I was right, I woke up on my own at 6:05 this morning. I thought that might be a little TOO early so I stayed in bed until about 6:30… and that is when it all started to go wrong.

Last night before I went to bed I’d rolled up the living room rug so all I’d only have to unroll my mat and I’d be ready to go. HOWEVER my dog sometimes has overnight accidents in the house, so I had to walk out slowly and carefully in case of dog messes on the floor. Also, Gwen and Nicky were awake and playing in their room with the door slightly ajar so I couldn’t turn on any lights that might shine down the hallway. So. Hunting for dog mess in the dark. Cool. I used my phone to remotely turn on the lights in the playroom, which shone enough into the dining room to illuminate a scattering of poops on the dining room floor (the one I mopped yesterday afternoon…).

I hopscotched over them to get to the foyer, grabbed a poop bag and quickly picked up the mess. Of course now I had to get back to the front door to throw it out, but I couldn’t exactly tell where the poops had been and I didn’t want to step on any poop remnants before mopping. I had the brilliant idea of walking around the other side of the dining room table and cutting through the living room to get to the door, so I did just that. Which is when I stepped in a puddle of piddle.

I had to wipe my foot dry with my pajama pants, strip them off and hop to the door to toss out the poop bag in my underwear, and then hop back to the bathroom to wash my foot. I wiped up the pee and put on some clean pants, and then I had to mop the dining room, still in a mostly dark apartment because I didn’t want to alert the kids to my presence. They are basically like the ear monsters in A Quiet Place so this all had to be done in silence as well.

Finally at about 6:50 the floors and myself were clean and ready. I put out my mat, turned on the video, and that was when Nicky started screaming. I don’t know if the low volume of the video was enough to let him know I was up, or if he’d just had enough of playing in his crib, but his yelling was not conducive to a peaceful yoga experience so I had to pause the video, get him up, change his diaper and plonk him and his sister on the couch because I was GODDAMN DETERMINED TO DO MY FRIGGING YOGA OK. So I did, and it was not great, because Nicky kept sitting on me and bringing me objects (he says “here you go” and then he throws a phone or a jar or a pair of underpants at me) and Gwen, bless her heart, always wants to gives hugs and kisses. But in the end I still did it, and I’m gonna do it again tomorrow, although I think I should probably get some headphones.


I was having a ton of trouble finding a basket to hold these mats that met my exact specifications for height, size and price, and then I realized I ALREADY OWNED IT. This used to hold the wooden blocks in the playroom, so I moved them to a shorter, wider basket and now everything has a place. I LOVE things having a place.


Ol’ Milky Eyes. This guy is getting pretty old, we thought he was like 14 but he’s really almost SEVENTEEN which is very ancient for a dog, even a small one..


Part of the reason I have trouble getting out of bed is because IT IS A LITERAL CLOUD. I finished up painting my bedroom a few weeks ago (well, mostly, I skipped the wall behind the bed because I didn’t feel like unscrewing my headboard from the wall and anyway the whole thing has curtains covering it) and it is SO NICE no longer having a half-painted space (which it has been since we had the floor replaced like a year & a half ago? YIKES).


I did a quick refresh to this corner of the playroom recently; I switched out the black brackets on the mattress shelf/Moomin poster with some white ones, painted the wall behind the left side of the kitchen (actually only part of it because I ran out of paint after finishing my bedroom), put some long Ikea picture ledge shelves on that wall to hold wooden puzzles and other ~aesthetic~ toys, and also screwed some pieces of foam core board painted to match the walls behind the two open arches of the play kitchen to stop Nicky from throwing literally every toy in the house behind it. His jumpsuit is a hand-me-down from Gwen, it’s completely impractical but completely adorable.